It’s the final day of the ninth-annual ANNIKA Invitational at Reunion Resort in Orlando, Florida, one my Foundation’s six global junior golf tournaments. I founded the ANNIKA Foundation in 2007 with the mission of helping the next generation fulfill its dreams. It’s hard to believe we’re already embarking on our 10-year anniversary.
During this time, we have inspired many young girls from all over the world and partnered with other organizations that share a similar vision. The numbers we are now seeing when it comes to girls in golf are staggering. In 1995, girls made up only 17% of all junior golfers – today, they total one third. They’re also entering the game at a younger age, as there are 50% more junior golfers under age 12 than there were in 1995.
This is great news and very motivating. It means the golf industry’s initiatives have been extremely effective.
We all know golf is a sport for all ages. But it’s also a great platform to teach the younger generation skills and lessons for life. That’s why our events are themed as “More than Golf,” as seeing competitors hit a great approach shot or make a crucial putt aren’t our only goals. We hold workshops to discuss best practices for media interviews, social media usage, fitness, nutrition and how to navigate the college admissions process.
These young girls are at a crucial time of their lives, so teaching self-awareness and confidence is extremely important. Teenage girls can be vulnerable and very influenced by their surroundings and peers. They are constantly bombarded with information –good and bad — but find it hard to differentiate between the two. There is so much influence and distraction from the outside world through today’s easy access to social media channels. Personal appearance and performance expectations are unnecessarily high and often unattainable; unfortunately, the stress can be insurmountable.
This is why role models are so important. As a young girl, I always had role models. I had individuals I looked up to and admired. They can come from sports, entertainment, business or closer to home. My role models early on were my parents, but as my views and horizons expanded, I learned from others. I observed and emulated the behaviors I respected and it helped me be successful.
Although I’m not playing professionally anymore, I’m eager to share my passion for and knowledge of the game. My experiences can help the next generation live their dreams, and as the ANNIKA Foundation continues to establish new golf initiatives I get even more inspired. I have never been shy to set goals, even very lofty ones. I visualize goals like a ladder. Your ultimate prize is at the top, but you can only reach it by climbing step by step.
In this spirit, I’m proud to announce that over the next 10 years our Foundation is focused on doubling our player participation to 7,500 girls and increasing our worldwide competitor reach to over 50 countries through eight global tournaments. As Bo Jackson, one of the greatest athletes of all-time would say, “Set your goals high and don’t stop until you get there.”